Mumbai is on the surface a seething mass of people and vehicles crushed into an improbably small and hot space. The heat of everyone forcing their way through the crowds only makes it hotter and harder to move. In every crack of this collage of motion there is a lifetime being played out. In the alleys are people whose lives may be at a crossroads that is impossible to imagine to a casual passerby. In the tops of high rise buildings are people who pass through the heat and chaos in climate controlled cars and buildings, barely noticing the millions of stories unfolding each day here. In fact, probably most people here don’t notice each other. There is too much to notice.
The effect of all that motion and all those countless people is overwhelming. The alleys are too far stretched. There are too many slums and too many children wandering through cars backed up on the streets with outstretched hands. When people talk about the poverty that you will see in India, they talk about the absolute deprivation that people endure; the lack of housing, food, opportunities. For me, what is so far the most difficult to deal with is the sense that wherever you turn, you will see someone living in poverty, and to imagine that for every person you don’t see, there are a thousand more just around the corner, who I will never see.
But still amidst an overwhelming and admittedly intimidating first impression of this city there are still people who are committed to tackling the country’s problems head on. They see the city’s problems not as a source of intimidation but a reason to continue to press for change. For me, those children weaving their way through traffic are nameless but there are people setting up schools for them, improving sanitation, organizing workers, fighting for women’s rights, and helping to ensure that they have a future.
My work as an LGT Venture Philanthropy iCats Fellow will start with drawing inspiration from the people here who understand the country’s problems and their scale and are more committed than ever to helping solve them. From there I will have the chance to support these people as well as to help ensure that more young girls in one of the country’s most challenging regions for girl’s education have a chance to do great things. Working with Educate Girls, an NGO that tackles the gender gap in schools in Rajasthan, India through community-engagement and partnerships with the local government, I will have a chance to bring my skills and energy into an organization with huge potential and to help support a group of people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of young girls in India.